Episode 1.8

The team flies up the spectacular Central Coast of B.C. to Calvert Island, Bella Bella, where they meet Rudy’s old friend and colleague Heiltsuk archaeologist Elroy White. As Rudy explores one of the deepest shell middens ever discovered on the west coast, Jen and Jacob continue their friendly competition, screening for artifacts with the help of field school students who have set up a unique station on the shore of the remote island. This time it just might be Jacob’s turn to feel jealous.

Coastal Middens

The wet climate and bounty of the Pacific Coast translate into extremely deep trenches to excavate. Ten thousand years of accumulation of rain forest soil and coastal midden deposits means that 10m trenches are common – and also uncommonly well-preserved. Abundant shells from oysters and clams provide rich calcium deposits, neutralizing the acidity of the pine needle soil and excellently preserving the evidence for us to sift through today.

Heiltsuk Singing at Hakai


“So far, through all of our adventures, this is the site with the most students.”

– Jacob Pratt




A Great Coastal People 

Edward Curtis famously photographed the Kwakwaka’wakw people who lived south of Heiltsuk Territory in his 1921 book “The American Indian” . The people of the central coast fashioned great sea-faring canoes and traveled along the rim of the Pacific with sophisticated social and trading networks. One benefit of nature’s generosity meant spare energy to develop artistic culture, architecture and dramatic, powerful symbology.

“It’s a shell midden site and quite a few things were preserved because of the shell.”

– Jenifer Brousseau